Because the eye-popping “big” results haven’t quite happened outside of his win at Detroit race two, it’s easy to overlook what Simon Pagenaud and the HP Schmidt Hamilton Motorsports team have done in the last five races.
Pagenaud’s month of May was quietly solid, ending as the second-best Honda finisher in eighth place. He hasn’t made any mistakes in the races since then and racked up a needed top-10 Sunday in Iowa, with sixth place. The only three drivers that have scored more points than Pagenaud since Indy are Ryan Hunter-Reay, Helio Castroneves and Iowa winner James Hinchcliffe.
“Traffic played a big role in the race, but it was great for the HP car to be up front on an oval today,” Pagenaud said. “At the end I’m not sure what we were missing because the car was really hooked up.”
“I had a blast out there,” he added. “The restarts were fun, the racing was fun, and it was just a great day of competition. From the cockpit it was back and forth going as hard as you could into pit lane and getting out just as fast. We were trying to grab positions any way we could.”
Since Pagenaud is only in his second year racing on ovals, the fact he didn’t lose substantial ground while the Hondas have struggled compared to the Chevrolets is a promising sign heading to the second half of the season.
Pagenaud exited the Indianapolis 500 10th in points, and he’s now sixth, 36 points behind Marco Andretti in third. Pagenaud has already tested at Pocono earlier this year, so he won’t be going in completely blind to “the tricky triangle” in a couple weeks.
More importantly, the run of seven straight road and street course races after Pocono sets up nicely for Pagenaud the second half of the season. Combined with the strengths of engineer Ben Bretzman, team manager Rob Edwards, look for the Frenchman to score his second win of the year and make some more regular visits to the podium.